As President Barack Obama pushed for a new federal health law in 2009, he made a simple pledge: If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your plan. But behind the scenes, White House officials discussed whether that was a promise they could keep…
[A]t times, there was second-guessing. At one point, aides discussed whether Mr. Obama might use more in-depth discussions, such as media interviews, to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches, a former aide said. Officials worried, though, that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president’s message…
“With 20/20 hindsight, maybe this should have been parsed more carefully,” said Jim Margolis, a media adviser to Mr. Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said of Mr. Obama’s broad promise. But, he added, “The president’s statement seems fair.”…
One former senior administration official said that as the law was being crafted by the White House and lawmakers, some White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s “keep your plan” promise. They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.
A new Rasmussen poll finds that an overwhelming majority of voters think the president probably lied to them about his “signature achievement”, and would like to see it scrapped or changed.
Asked how likely it is that Obama or senior officials in his administration were aware long before ObamaCare was implemented, that health insurance costs would go up for some, 71 percent of voters responded that “it’s at least somewhat likely.”
The old adage is, “all politics is local.” Well, all health-care politics is personal. And thanks to President Obama and his Democratic allies, today every American adult is anxiously evaluating the personal status of his or her health insurance. In most cases, these people either can’t get any answers or they don’t know if what they are being told is accurate or even truthful. This is big. The Obamacare debacle has become something of a national collective focal point. The entire country is engaged, and it’s not a holiday or a sporting event. It’s more like a natural disaster. A slow motion, rolling disaster — and the storm surge might not peak until November 2014.
The unintended consequences of Obamacare have only just begun. More and more Americans are receiving health care plan cancellation notices, and it’s possible that the number of cancellations is greater than the number of new enrollees. And between Team Obama’s incompetence and denial, you can bet that no one had a plan to deal with these problems, even if they were warned. It is unlikely they can turn things around quickly. What will the political fallout be?
“It’s not theoretical anymore,” said Virginia-based health industry consultant Robert Laszewski. “You can spin in the White House press room, but these are people who will be sitting down with their friends and families at Thanksgiving sharing stories about their cancellation letters. That’s going to be the only thing that counts.”…
Turning to politics, Kaiser Family Foundation polling from September and crunched exclusively for POLITICO shows no statistically significant difference when people who bought their own health insurance were asked which political party they identify with. But when asked which way they lean, they said they were more likely to side with Republicans than Democrats.
Party politics, however, might be out the door when it comes to how cancellation letters connected to Obamacare play in the next election cycle. “The anger crosses party lines,” said Laszewski, the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates. “I think the administration is way underestimating the shock wave here.”…
“For every one person who gets their policy cancelled, that fact could influence maybe three or four other voters as well. It has a potential to spiral to not just people it immediately affects, but others,” said David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank.
President Obama calls them “substandard” insurance plans. But to many of the people who bought individual insurance policies that are now being canceled under the Affordable Care Act, their choice of insurance was a prudent decision that met their needs at a price that will be hard to beat under the ACA.
Jim Stadler is one of the “5 percenters”—the 5% of Americans with health insurance policies they purchased on their own—who got notified recently that their carrier was canceling coverage because it didn’t meet the tougher new minimum requirements of the ACA. Stadler, a freelance writer who lives outside of Charlotte, N.C., was laid off from a full-time job at an ad agency in 2009, at which point he became a freelancer and bought individual health coverage for him and his two kids.
Under Stadler’s expiring policy, his premiums are $411 a month, for coverage that always seemed adequate to him. “It’s not a substandard policy,” he says. “I thought it was a great deal.” The premium for the new policy offered by his insurer will be $843 a month, with coverage that’s more or less the same as far as he’s concerned. But new policies are required to include free preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and they can’t be canceled or priced higher for sicker people, which is why the cost of some policies is going up.
Since Stadler’s family’s income is too high to qualify for federal subsidies, he’s considering putting his kids on the policy his wife, a teacher, gets through her job. But that would be expensive, too. “The thing that gets me,” says Stadler, who voted for Obama in the 2012 presidential election, “is I thought Barack Obama was the only guy I could trust in Washington. He ended up lying to me because he said, if I like my insurance, I could keep it.”
Carrie Prince, 28, is a freelance production assistant for a major Hollywood studio. And while she works more than 40 hours a week, she doesn’t get insurance from her employer. She’s going to buy coverage, she says, but she’s torn about it.
“It will make me broke all the time,” she says. “It’s basically taking every last dollar that I would have to spend on extra food, or a parking ticket or anything.”
Prince says she’s gone to and calculated that with a subsidy she would have to pay just over $100 per month.
“I am super-healthy. I rarely go to the doctor. So to pay over $100 a month for something I rarely use seems crazy to me,” she says.
Start, for example, with a low-income family of four living near St. Louis, Missouri, with $35,325 in household income (that is 150% of the federal poverty rate for a family that size). A Silver Plan policy for the family would have an annual premium of $8,088, according to Kaiser. But the family would receive a taxpayer-paid subsidy of $6,675, which means the family would pay, with its own money, just $1,413 for the coverage. (Kaiser chose the Silver Plan for the calculator because that is the plan that determines the size of Obamacare subsidies.)*…
Finally, choose a higher income level, but one at which there are still a lot of people. For a family of four with an income of $85,000, the premium remains $8,088 but the subsidy shrinks to just $13 a year, meaning the family will pay, with its own money, $8,075 for coverage. So that family will technically receive help with its health care costs — but not really.
For families above that level, and there are a lot of them, the subsidy will be $0. The bottom line is, when — or if — large numbers of people actually begin purchasing coverage on the Obamacare exchanges, many will find the much-touted subsidies aren’t for them.
And that will be the key question of Obamacare: Will it help more people than it hurts, or will it hurt more people than it helps? If the answer is the former, Obamacare might become a permanent feature of American life. If the answer is the latter, it will be politically unsustainable and will fail.
What makes these problems more troublesome than some other controversies is that they go to the question of Obama’s competence, rather than to differences of policy or ideology. On policy disputes, one side may like a decision and the other may dislike it, often resulting in a political wash. However, competence issues cut across the partisan and ideological spectrum, and they can have a real impact on independents and moderates. These voters, who by definition don’t look at issues and events through a partisan or ideological prism, are normally comfortable standing behind the proverbial plate, calling balls and strikes as they see them. They usually don’t root for one side or the other…
Doubts about competence inflict damage, particularly if they are followed by other incidents that reinforce those doubts and by a vigilant opposition party flagging these miscues, as Republicans can be counted on to do here. Doubts about competence eat at enthusiasm among your base and alienate the moderates and independents who are really the ones determining whether a president has strong job-approval ratings (and note that high ratings translate into clout on Capitol Hill and, to a certain extent, around the world).
As for those who believe that once the exchanges and subsidies kick in, “it’s going to prove almost impossible to undo Obamacare” because people will react like sugar addicts, it’s important to realize that the entitlement portion of the Affordable Care Act will be enjoyed by only a small slice of Americans. For most, choice and access will be restricted and prices will go up. The downside of Obamacare will end up affecting many more Americans than the upside. That’s because the Affordable Care Act isn’t a program that just gives people money; it’s one that tries to manage the health insurance sector and looks likely to manage it in a very unpopular way.
The political ramifications could be enormous. Precisely because the Affordable Care Act is the realization of a half-century long liberal dream, if it fails, it will be a crushing blow not just to Barack Obama but to American liberalism itself. Why? Because Obamacare is in many ways the avatar, the archetype, of modern liberalism. That’s true in terms of its coercive elements, its soaring confidence in technocratic solutions, its ambition to centralize decisionmaking, and its belief that government knows best. You may like your health care plan, but the role of the benevolent nanny state is to impose its will on you. And we see the zealous aspirations of liberalism in using a discrete problem, in this case the uninsured, to remake our entire health care system…
It would be quite an historical irony if Obama, who raised such extravagant hopes among progressives when he ran for office, turns out to have a shattering effect on contemporary liberalism. But that may be just where we are heading. Barack Obama may turn out to be the best thing to happen to conservatism since Ronald Reagan.
[T]he entire premise of Obamacare was that, in order to cover (some of) the uninsured and (in many cases) uninsurable, other Americans were going to have to pay significantly more. Obamacare was always intended to be the Great Disruptor: Avik Roy reports that, by 2010, administration officials knew that 93 million Americans would lose their current plans under Obamacare. Small businesses are cutting back on full-time workers; medium businesses are dumping employees’ spouses and children from their plans; and the largest businesses are eating nine-figure bottom-line increases. Delta Airlines claims that it will spend an extra $100 million on health-care expenses next year: Even with cutbacks on complimentary mini-pretzels, a tenth of a billion is a big sum to recover. Meanwhile, the Obamacare plans won’t recognize your preferred doctor, and major hospitals won’t recognize the Obamacare plans.
[T]he Obama crowd have bet that, after the usual whining, you’ll settle down and get used to it: higher co-pays, higher premiums, higher deductibles, higher mountain of paperwork, higher futzing. But the fact remains that nowhere in the Western world has the governmentalization of health care been so incompetently introduced and required protection by such a phalanx of lies. Obamacare is not a left–right issue; it’s a fraud issue.
Via the Daily Caller.